Rajesh Nath | Managing Director  | VDMA India Office, Kolkata

First published in M+V’s India Insight 2012

Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), was the former capital of India and the birthplace of modern literary and artistic thoughts which lives to this day. It is locally regarded as the intellectual and cultural capital of the nation. A city that charms and shocks visitors at the same time – love it or hate it but you’ll never forget it.

Hotels

The ITC Sonar: A distinctively modern and sleek architectural design contrasts with the rich historical essence of ITC Sonar. The understated elegance of architect Kerry Hill’s minimalist design and the exquisite landscape, contribute to an ambience which conveys an alluring sense of Kolkata’s many-layered cultural and historical legacies.

The Grand Oberoi: A heritage 125 year old premium Hotel. The place has an aura of historical grandeur with classical Victorian and traditional Indian styles giving you the feeling of connecting to the past — a past steeped in a way of life that no longer exists.

Taj Bengal: A Hotel with contemporary in downtown posh Alipore area of Kolkata. Designed by noted architect Bob Fox, it stands apart with its elegant façade, modern architecture, classical atrium design and interiors with genuine antiques and priceless art.

Eating Out and Nightlife

Peter Cat: It’s very popular with locals as the queue in the evenings suggests but the wait is definitely worth its gold. Often visited by the Who’s Who of Calcutta, Peter Cat promises a power packed meal and a pleasant time.

Bhojohori Manna: Named after a popular Bengali song rendered by the legendary Manna Dey, the place has redefined the idea of Bengali cuisine. The focus is on bringing back those nostalgic recipes of grandmother‘s times.

6 BallyGunge Place serves typical Bengali fare; it’s about Kolkata‘s homegrown flavours elevated to haute cuisine. The mocktails are named after the addresses of famous Kolkatans.

Tantra, Shisha and Someplace Else: The 3 most happening nightlife spots are located in and around Park Street. The luxury bar and night club Tantra offers innovative novel theme nights, with celebrities, fashion shows and special jam sessions. It’s the city‘s busiest address at night. Someplace Else boasts of live music and has been the breeding ground for bands. Shisha Reincarnated: It is the location of high-end partying with international and national DJs. It promises to pack a punch with its ‘Hangover’ ambience and inspired lighting schemes.

Culture and Recreation

Nandan is a government-sponsored centre, in an impressively-architectured building. Nandan is the symbol of art and culture in the city and shares its site with the Rabindra Sadan cultural centre. It’s a modern cinema, a cultural complex and a popular hang-out for everyone.

Boating along the Hoogly River near the Howrah Bridge. Book a boat to enjoy the scenic beauty of the river or cruise for a few hours on the Hoogly under the 2 Bridges of Kolkata and along the old pre-independence structures including state buildings, the majestic Howrah Station as well as various Ghats and the religious centres.

Places to see in Kolkata

A walk through Old Kolkata’s Dalhousie area serves beautifully to the nostalgic remains of the British Raj and is a walk back in time. The modern amenities peep out through happening areas like Park Street, the ultimate place for all vivacity, joy and food. Visit the New Market close by or take a tram to discover historic mansions and homes of legendary people.

Victoria Memorial, one of the famous and beautiful monuments of Kolkata was built between 1906 and 1921 in memory of Queen Victoria. The forms in the museum like the great dome, the terrace and the domed corner towers speak of a splendid richness in architecture.

Howrah Bridge is an engineering marvel and one of the busiest cantilevered bridges in the world. Opened to traffic in 1943, the Howrah Bridge (officially called the Rabindra Setu, after poet Rabindranath Tagore) crosses the Hooghly River to link Kolkata with its twin city of Howrah. It is impressive that it crosses the river in a single span without any pylons connecting it to the river bed.

Excursions

Sunderbans: Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Sunderbans (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. It forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India, is part of the world‘s largest delta and is also the world’s largest estuarine forest.

Santiniketan: A small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. It was made famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now a university town (Visva-Bharati University).

KOLKATA FACTS

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QUICK FACTS

Area: 1886 sq km
Population incl. suburbs: 14.1 Mio.
Climate: Tropical wet climate
Monsoon Months: June to September
Summer Months: March to May
Average Temperature: 26.8ºC
Best Season to visit: November to February
Languages: Bengali, Hindi, English and Urdu
Major Religions: Hinduism, Christianity, Islam
Miscellaneous: Kolkata (Calcutta) was the capital of British India